I have ventured to this city more times than I can remember and will forever return when the opportunity arises, as I have a close relationship with this place. I have visited all corners of this country, I have been the victim of bird’s well-aimed droppings, been told to f**k off (more on that later), remained seated on a train that had broken down (for longer than I dare say), stumbled back to my hotel room at 4am with my return flight 3 hours later, suffered in the cold of a deserted train station for several hours; but I love this place.
The Dutch speak better English than you do. Actually, they speak better English than native English speakers do. In fact, they will speak several more languages than you and they will do all of this while being taller than you.
For the fastidious of you, the country is clean, like seriously clean. If you’re driving around and possibly a little like me, you will look out the window and notice that there will be little to no rubbish on the roadsides. I mean the country has far more impressive accomplishments, but I can’t help but be impressed by this.
With an estimated 800,000 bicycles in Amsterdam (bear in mind the population of Amsterdam is 851,000) you will be almost run over by a bicycle, daily. This is because you are yet to evolve the Dutch sixth sense that keeps them from harm. You do not have this, accept it. Once you experience a near collision and your life flashes by, simply recompose yourself, realign your clothing and continue with your day. I only hope you will not carrying a hot Starbucks in your hand at the time.
Schiphol is fun to say, whether you say it like ‘Skipple’ or ‘Shiphole’. I am told the former is correct.
Where to stay
Hotel V Fizeaustraat. A 70s-nostalgic treat for the senses, reminiscent of the décor and style of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. The theme continues throughout the hotel and into your room which exudes style. Only I lacking the style of Mad Men’s Don Draper brought this room back into the modern era.
This Hotel resists the mundane commonplace buffet and replaces it with a simple menu service. A touch that endeared this hotel to me further.
The key facts for getting around. A 10-minute taxi into the centre. 25 minutes to the airport.
Where to eat
De Nachtwacht. A well-established restaurant in a great central location serving tasty food. I’d recommend sitting outside to absorb the atmosphere of the square that the restaurant overlooks. In winter there was a very charming winter market here, with delicious treats.
Apologies for the poor quality photo I took here. The restaurant is far more deserving and at the time and I mostly concentrating on eating.
Being told to F**k off
This story is partly why The Netherlands is so dear to me. Several years ago, I met with a client in Delft (south of The Hague), for a drink after a good day’s work. We visited a wonderful pub called Locus Publicus near the Oude Kerk Church in the centre square (you can buy a ticket and head to the top of the tower, I highly recommend this). After a few drinks, my Dutch associate corrected my English. I made a quip that English is my second language and French my first (which is in fact, true), to which a loud voice from nowhere, said: “f**k off”. Now in most pubs in my experience, when said words are mentioned, you cast an eye for the nearest exit and prepare to make a speedy departure. Fortunately for me, the owner of this voice was a young lady that doubted the sincerity in my comment and demanded proof, this was the case. So, in the middle of this tiny pub, we had a language-off (a far less cool version of a dance-off) and showed off our language prowess. This will forever remain a fond memory for me, of how friendly the Dutch are. If you are this lady, then I thank you for our uncool language-off.
Just visit the country.